Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus Tent – 14th Aug – 17:00
Tell us about First Degree Burns
Ben: We’re each pretty busy individually, I have various jobs. I’ve got four jobs at the minute, not all music related, but I’m in four bands too. I can’t get enough of it!
John: I’ve come over from Denmark. I work for Lego as a designer. I’ve been in the band for six or seven years, and I’m so lucky that we are all best buddies. If you want to be in FDB it’s not about your musical ability, it’s about how well you fit in with the boys. If you can’t deal with the unnecessary homo-erotic banter, well, there’s a lot of that.
Adam: We’re the infantry, they’re the cavalry. I got a Young Talent award when I was about 16, and I got a grant to enable me to get instruments, and make music, and very fortunately I’m currently working with these guys. I play a lot of jazz, I’m really more of a jazz guy, that’s why I love these guys. I really love hip-hop too. I’m about to go to Uni, and hopefully I’ll stay with these guys. I get along with these guys so well.
George: We don’t make any money out of the music that we do. It gets reinvested. That’s always been a policy. So none of us has ever made much, nor had to spend much money. The more music we do, the better we do… it’s a self propelling machine, or an animal!
Ben: We’d only be doing it if we really loved the music and really saw our band grow. We develop our fan base every year. Now we’re at a point where if we push it, we can try to take it a little bit further than we ever have before. We’re playing a lot more London gigs now. We’re not lazy, there are just a lot of us to organise!
George: Join us on facebook. The album ‘This is Skip-hop’ is available on i-tunes.
How did it all begin?
Ben: It all started twelve or thirteen years ago, as brothers jamming in the bedroom. Then we got George involved on the bass.
George: Back then we were a three piece ska, punk, hip-hop band. Back in the days of Limp Biscuit, it was heavy metal with rapping, we’d have hip hop verses and screaming, really heavy metal choruses. We wanted to go a bit more down the hip-hop side of things so one Summer Ben borrowed a multi-track recorder from college, his parents went away for a month, and we set that up, had loads of mates around, spent a month or so partying, and recorded this album with all our friends. Then we grew into what is now First Degree Burns. We had two MCs at that point, a DJ, bass guitar, drums. It was quite hip-hop based. Then a horn section came in a few years after that.
John: We were inspired by bands like Babyhead, Cat Empire, Babylon Circus.
Ben: Over the years people have come and gone and everything has evolved each time someone’s left the band and someone else has joined. Wilf quit in 2003, he was an MC, and he decided one day he couldn’t do it anymore, which was cool, but we were a little bit stuck for a while. Sam, the other vocalist, was doing it all by himself. The issue at the time was that we didn’t do anything too melodic because Wilf couldn’t sing. He was a really good rapper but when he left it suddenly meant we could experiment with that a bit more. That’s when Jalon joined, which brought the Jamaican influence. The ragga, and he could sing as well. That brought out Sam’s singing ability and he developed over the years. So we can do melody now, and we became more willing to experiment with other forms.
Jalon: We became less rap/ hip-hop and more ska/ melodic.
Any plans to branch out from Bristol?
Ben: We’re all based in Bristol, and it’s hard to get eight people away from work and to London. And the guys we had before would admit that to a degree they were holding us back, due to other commitments.
George: Our sound is very unique. Even if you didn’t like the music, we demand people’s attention. We struggle to get out of Bristol because we struggle to define ourselves with a genre for marketing.
We don’t want to be one of those bands where every song sounds the same.
Jalon: No big promoters want to know because it’s a very different sound to cubby hole. In Bristol it’s a really natural thing for bands to bend and blend genres. That just doesn’t happen so much in the rest of the UK.
George: How do you describe it? We’ve got cheesy reggae, we’ve got dark hip-hop, we’ve got dub, every song is unique. That’s what is so great, that we try to keep the spice of music alive.
Jalon: Has anyone said eclectic fusion yet?
Ben: We tried to sum it up in one word, and we’re toying with the idea of calling ourselves ‘Skip-hop’.
John: We’ve got a sound, we don’t need to find it, it’s just getting other people to recognise it.
We’ve got a lot of contacts in London, we’ve just never used them. But now we’re talking with a manager to find out what it is we need to do. He gave us some tips, and we’ve done it. Last year we put together this amazing music video for ‘Who dem guys?’. It was tremendous fun and gave us the image that we’re a bunch of bad boys. Glitter covered bad boys!
George: We’ve just come back from gigs in Germany. We played a festival in an old Russian airfield where all the stages were aircraft hangers. We played the circus area and we killed it there. It’s knowing that our sound transcends any nation. So the next plan is to get all our promo and marketing materials done.
Jalon: And try to organise a big tour for next year.
What brings you to Boomtown?
Ben: Boomtown is our home, with our home crowd. The Invisible Circus is a Bristol events team, they’re great and they’re friends of ours. We know James and Chris, two of the main organisers. They used to run Clockwork in Bristol, and Lab.
George: We played at one of their very first festivals and we’ve seen it grow, blossom, from those early days into what it is now. It’s great to see local guys growing something through hard work. And now we’ve seen the benefits of an amazing festival where you’ve got international bands and bands from all over the UK. It’s great to have been invited back again and again.
John: Last year we played on the main stage. It was raining all of Friday and Friday night, until midday on Saturday. We came onto The Arcadia stage. As soon as we started singing the sun came out. It was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done. Our home crowd, people knowing the words, coming up to us and saying ‘we were listening to your CD on the way’. We got three or four encores, it was incredible.
Where do you get your energy from?
Ben: There’s something about being on stage.
Adam: We get energy from the crowd and from each other.
Jalon: Also, we argue like hell. There’s a lot of aggro and tension, with eight massive egos, so it’s better to take the anger out on the music than to hit each other in the face!
John: And we absolutely love it. No-one’s making us do that, we’re doing what we’ve created and what we love. And we love each other. We love getting involved the festival vibe, so if to get to do that with your mates, there’s nothing better.
Jalon: And the inability to think of a better job.
Any advice for up and coming bands?
Ben: If you don’t get on with each other, it doesn’t last and it’s not enjoyable.
John: So find bandmates which gel with your style.
J: That might involve some rigid initiation. If you live through it, you’ve probably got longevity.
Adam: If you’re passionate about it don’t let little things get on top of you.
Ben: Yeah, there was a point last Summer when our guitarist left after ten years. The month before we’d lost our trombone player , then Martin left after playing with us for ten years.
George: And we had this horrible night of crying and drowning our sorrows, thinking ‘how am I ever going to chat up girls again?’
Adam: But you’ve got to be patient. Music is not just about getting trashed and chatting up girls. A lot of time goes on behind the scenes. It’s not an overnight thing. You’ve got to work.
John: But don’t take it too seriously, and have fun.
Jalon: Take the piss out of each other, and remember the heirarchy!
Band members: Ben Baikovitch-Fisher – Drums; Sam Baikovitch-Fisher – Vocals/Clarinet; George Shipley – Bass; Jalon Fearon-Zbijowski – Vocals; John-Henry Harris – Sax; Alistair Hall – Keys; Michael Burrows – Guitar; Adam Mcloughlin – Sax
(c) Claire Higgins, 2011